The 2015 NBA Draft is Thursday, June 25th and it’s going to be filled with excitement. Trade rumors have been swirling all around the NBA lately including high profile players such as DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Jennings, Eric Bledsoe, and Ty Lawson. Whether these deals get done, who knows? There are always rumors circulating around the association during this time of the year and many are nothing more than a smoke screen. The draft presents a great opportunity for organizations to improve their rosters and get their respective team to the NBA Playoffs. For my first mock draft ever, the picks are based off of the idea that no teams are going to trade hypothetically, to avoid the clutter that comes with each rumor. So here it is, the Stevenson 2015 NBA Mock Draft:
The pick is between the two big men, KAT and Okafor. KAT presents an overall more complete player with a polished defensive game. Okafor is your old-school back-to-the-basket Center who has a great offensive game. However the major difference between the two is defensively. Towns has a great knack for shot blocking and is much more athletic than Okafor. In a recent workout for the Los Angeles Lakers, Towns was draining 3-pointers as well. With the Minnesota Timberwolves having an incredibly young team, taking the more polished player on both sides of the ball is a safe bet. Although, GM/Coach Flip Saunders has reportedly been lobbying management for Okafor due to his offensive presence.
- L.A. Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers were the only team in this years NBA Draft Lottery to jump up in the draft order. They obtain the No. 2 pick and are expected to draft the leftover of the two highly coveted Centers in the draft. After announcing they will not retain the contract of Jordan Hill, the Lakers are in dire need of a Center and the ping pong balls put them a few steps ahead in the rebuilding process. With last years first-round pick, Julius Randle, returning from his season-ending surgery last year there are high expectations for this young frontcourt to come should the Lakers draft Okafor. Another option at this draft position is Ohio State Guard, D’Angelo Russell, who would be seen as somewhat of a “learn-and-replace” player from Kobe Bryant as his career is coming to a close. Kristaps Porzingis has also been under consideration, but is seen as a dark-horse at this point. Also important to note, the latest rumblings regarding DeMarcus Cousins being traded to the Lakers is serious and will totally change up their draft plans.
The rumors have swirled this past week regarding the No. 3 pick owned by Philadelphia. The top 3 selections were thought to be locks as Towns, Okafor, and Russell are the 3 sure products in this draft, however lately that has changed. Joel Embiid, who was highly regarded as the best prospect in the 2014 Draft Class (Even ahead of Wiggins and Parker) however injured his leg in a pre-draft workout and wasn’t able to play all year for the Sixers. With high hopes of Nerlens Noel and Embiid at the frontcourt, recent news has surfaced regarding the Center’s rehabilitation process that may force him to miss yet another season. That being said, the Sixers may have a necessary need at the front court positions. Noel, a true Center, has been playing at the 4 spot in order to get him used to the position for when Embiid were to return. Sliding Noel into the 5 spot and drafting a player with great potential might be a decent move. Kristaps Porzingis has skyrocketed up draft boards and some scouts have even labeled him as the best player in the draft class. All in all, the 76rs do indeed have some sort of stability in the front court, and aside health, the only way to better them off is to get guards to create plays for them. Russell will be drafted at No. 3 by Philadelphia.
- New York
Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
Phil Jackson and the Knickerbockers would love nothing more than to either see one of the three top prospects slip down to them at No. 4, or trade the pick. There are numerous teams that would love to trade up to this spot and the Knicks are entertaining all offers. The latest rumors was the Phoenix Suns have explored packaging PG Eric Bledsoe and the No. 14 for the No. 4 pick. If you’re Phil Jackson you’d have to take that offer. You fix a need at the PG position with established guard Eric Bledsoe, and you’d be able to select another good prospect. If the Knicks were to pull the trigger here, I’d imagine they look at Frank Kaminsky, Myles Turner, and Trey Lyles for potential picks. But let’s say they stay put at No. 4 and miss out on their top 3 targets in Towns, Okafor, and Russell. Justise Winslow has been the popular name pegged in at this spot, and for good reason. He presents a physical game that can translate immediately defensively, and his offense should translate decently as well if paired up with Carmelo Anthony. However, the Knicks would go a different route. Kristaps Porzingis has potentially the highest upside as a player down the line, as his height and length mixed with his beautiful shooting touch is made to fit in any NBA system. The Knicks need more versatility on the offensive end and Porzingis would fill that need, providing a stretch 4 who has the potential to be a star in this league.
Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
Tobias Harris is a question mark entering the 2015-16 season as he is a restricted Free Agent come July. New Head Coach Scott Skiles also had Harris when both were in the Milwaukee Bucks organization, and that ended up with Harris shipped off to Orlando. So a rocky relationship to start would make one think Orlando is looking for a potential replacement for Harris, should he leave. Justise Winslow is the perfect fit as he can provide strong defense and a great offensive mind. Winslow is NBA ready due to his defense and work ethic, and can fit right in Orlando. The only other player I could see Orlando considering here would be Kristaps Porzingis as he could fill the void at the 4 spot and also would provide the stretch-4 that NBA teams are currently salivating over.
Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China
Mudiay was originally committed to SMU to learn under Head Coach Larry Brown, but elected to play overseas in China instead. He impressed everyone in his only year outside of high school ball and proved have the potential of an elite point guard in the association. His basketball IQ is top notch, his physicality is unmatched by other guards in this draft, and his playmaking is unlike anyone else. He has a true feel for the game and can fix any teams PG spot. George Karl places much focus on the PG position within his system, and rumblings of him attempting to acquire former player, Ty Lawson, have surfaced but nothing has come of it. Mudiay can instantly fill the void for the Kings and perhaps give them the leadership and basketball IQ the team needs to make the next step. He would compliment DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay well as he can create easy plays for the both of them. Shooting, however, is the one true weakness in Monday’s game, and the Kings unfortunately need some as well, so look for them to sign some wings during Free Agency to compliment this pick. Although with the most recent rumblings suggesting George Karl is pushing management to trade Boogie Cousins, Willie-Cauley Stein being selected early may indicate a trade. Especially considering the Lakers technically can’t trade their pick until it’s made since they already don’t have their 1-st rounder next year (Philadelphia obtains it).
Mario Hezonja, SG/SF, Spain
The Denver Nuggets have been the most talked about team thus far regarding potential trades as both Guard Ty Lawson and Forward Kenneth Faried have voiced their displeasure with the organization. Perhaps a draft-night trade could be made here as many teams would love to add both, especially Lawson. Don’t forget George Karl, now the Head Coach of Sacramento (who desperately is looking for a PG) used to coach the Nuggets and had a great relationship with Lawson. However, lets assume they stay at No. 7 and no trades are made, the Nuggets select european prospect Mario Hezonja. Perhaps the most elite shooter/scorer in the draft, at 18 years of age, Hezonja has scouts all over the league desperate for a workout. At 6’8 and slightly above 200 pounds, he has a perfect body for a wing player in the NBA. His ability to score at any given time makes him one of the best prospects in this draft class. Perhaps the best shooting stroke as well in this class, Hezonja would fill a great void for Denver as they need players to be able to hit down perimeter shots, and he could also play at the 2 spot as well providing them with versatility.
Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
This kid has a lot of potential on both sides of the floor, and is certainly one of my favorite prospects in this years draft class. His 3-and-D play makes him an immediate fix for whoever drafts him, it just comes down to if he develops into a star or not. I can see Johnson becoming a critical role player for whoever drafts him and the Pistons are just a great fit. Of course, rumors are circulating all around the Pistons regarding FA’s Greg Monroe and Reggie Jackson, but this is a great fix for the long term for Detroit. Most likely losing Monroe to free agency, the Pistons turned to Ersan Ilyasova as a replacement. Ilyasova is shooting forward and can expect to spread the floor and provide easier inside baskets for Andre Drummond. Defensively, Ilyasova is a drastic downgrade from Monroe so drafting a big man that can play some minutes and provide the defensive spark the Pistons need would be ideal, but at No. 8 their options are limited. Stanley Johnson can come in and make an immediate impact on defense while providing a 3-point shot the Pistons desperately need.
This is a tricky pick to make although amid the Lance Stephenson trade we can expect a SG to go here unless the Hornets go big with Kaminsky or Turner. In return for Stephenson, the Hornets acquired Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes so the Center position is filled and I can’t imagine they choose WCS with that much depth at the Center spot. So here we notice the Hornets are in dire need of 3-point shooting with the best potential shooter in the draft available. Devin Booker didn’t get the spotlight like some of his teammates did at Kentucky, however he developed into a phenomenal shooter. His stroke is pure and at 6’6 Booker can also play some defense, and excel against smaller opponents he’ll most likely match up with at the 2 spot. Booker would thrive in this scenario, as he would be a great option for Kemba Walker to kick it too for a 3 while also providing help for Al Jefferson as well.
Sam Dekker, SF/SG, Wisconsin
This may come off as an unusual selection although Miami Heat Owner, Pat Riley, has a niche for putting role players in a situation to maximize their talents. Sam Dekker has great potential as a role player as he can come right onto the Heat and provide valuable minutes off the bench. A 3-point shooter with the ability to catch fire from deep, as we all witnessed during Wisconsin’s March Madness run, while also obtaining the ability to stay in front of defenders and be trusted defensively immediately. The Heat currently have Luol Deng and James Ennis at SF while they have Dwyane Wade and Tyler Johnson at SG. Dekker can play both if he has to and would provide a spark off of the bench that this Miami Heat team desperately needs.
Indiana Pacers Team President Larry Bird said that WCS is going to be a $100 million player eventually. It’s tough for me to put him this low in the draft but it’s just that some teams don’t have a starting Center as their top priority. The Knicks could really use him, but that would require them to draft him way too high or trade back, and we’ve all heard the rumors of them fiercely trying to move down in the draft. The Bobcats and Heat may add him for depth, but WCS can’t be as useful behind Al Jefferson of the Bobcats, and the prized possession Hassan Whiteside of the Heat. Willie-Cauley Stein drops down and lands to the team who’s trying to avidly get rid of Roy Hibbert.
Frank Kaminsky, PF/C, Wisconsin
Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky will be utilized as a backup PF/C in Utah behind Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. He will be a nice change of pace as he adds a tremendous offensive game whereas Favors and Gobert are known for their defense. Kaminsky stated this offseason he would like to move to the 4 spot in the big leagues so expect him to play a bit of both off of the bench to start. Some may think Myles Turner will be drafted before Kaminsky but I believe he will fit well in Utah with the Jazz.
Myles Turner, C/PF, Texas
Turner definitely has a better upside when compared to Kaminski, however it’s going to take some time for him to develop. The Suns currently have Alex Len, the Lithuanian drafted in 2013, at Center and Markieff Morris at Power Forward but they will look to add some depth in this draft. He can play both positions and provide sound defense along with shot-blocking specialist Brandon Wright. The fit is great here for Turner as the Suns look to get to the playoffs next season.
- Oklahoma City
Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State
The Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly delivered a promise to Payne last month after an impressive workout. They could try to upgrade at the Power Forward spot however Payne has seen his draft stock surge lately, and he even said he didn’t see this one coming. Working out for teams as high as the No. 4 pick in the draft, Payne has had great reviews by teams and will be a great fit for the Thunder. Backing up All-Star Russell Westbrook, Payne provides great play-making ability as he can score with the rock in various ways while also possessing perhaps the best passing ability in this draft class.
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- Atlanta (From Brooklyn)
Trey Lyles, PF/SF, Kentucky
This fit is too perfect. Great insurance should the Atlanta Hawks lost Forward Demarre Carroll to free agency, Lyles can play the 3 and 4 spot in this league. Don’t forget that Lyles started at the 3 for Kentucky when really he is a natural PF. We barely got to see what he could do this past season and he surely gained much knowledge playing for John Calipari on how to become more versatile. If the Hawks can re-sign Carroll and Paul Millsap than Lyles can provide that bench player that can create a spark and shift the momentum of a game within one minute.
Kelly Oubre, SG/SF, Kansas
The Boston Celtics land a raw talent with great potential in this league. Although staying in college another year may have been beneficial for the young stud from Kansas, Kelly entered the draft with high expectations. Being considered a lottery pick for most of the last few months, Oubre has seen his stock slip a tad. His lack of consistency and effort on the defensive side scares some scouts, however his frame is a great built at 6’7 with a wingspan of 7’1.5” and provides a ton of potential for the future. A physical talent that has a good touch on his shooting stroke can provide a team with a project that has star potential.
Another one of my favorites in this draft class, Bobby Portis finds himself in a decent situation to show off his skills. With last years No. 2 overall pick, Jabari Parker, returning from injury Portis can come off the bench and provide great energy. He has that spark potential that can deliver purely off of his motor. He has that same ability as former Buck, Ersan Ilyasova, to knock down a jumper and spread the floor for the young forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. The Bucks are one of those teams looking to trade up and draft a Center, so look for rumors to swirl around their pick Thursday evening.
- Houston (From New Orleans)
Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame
Desperate for a Point Guard since James Harden verbally showed his disappointment in the depth at PG, the Rockets have been searching. Patrick Beverley was out the majority of the second half of the season and of course missed the playoffs. He provides wonderful energy and his arguably one of the best on-ball defenders in the league. But his offensive game is questionable and at his age, 26, it’s difficult to randomly develop. Harden made it clear he wants more help offensively at the position, and Grant is great here in Houston. His ability to create offense for not only himself but teammates as well puts him high on some draft boards. He can defend with great size, and has phenomenal awareness on both ends of the floor. James Harden gets his wish granted and Grant will be sharing the backcourt with defensive specialist, Patrick Beverly.
Kevin Looney, PF, UCLA
One of the best rebounders in the nation, Looney has amazing upside and can be a wonderful role player in this league. His rebounding ability along with his great potential in defense make him a lottery-caliber player. He can guard down low or even at the perimeter and can shoot the ball well also. Looney is a raw talent that make take a few years to develop but he has a great skill set to be a great player in years to come. He can provide useful minutes and replace Nene in Washington down the road.
Hunter made a name for himself this past March Madness tournament with his storybook tail as the father coached his son to victory. Hunter displayed his 3-point ability as well as being capable of catching fire quickly. He has great size and can defend well while also attaining the tools to run the floor. He is the best player available for the Raptors here and they need to provide more shooting in case guards Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez leave in free agency.
Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
Jones also made a name for himself in March Madness as he lead the Duke Blue Devils to a National Championship. Jones displayed excellent composure and has a great intelligence for the game. Rick Carlisle can develop him into a decent NBA point guard for the future. He has the weapons on Dallas to get the most out of his raw talent. Jones isn’t equipped with the best physical tools or shooting stroke but has made his game as a high IQ player that can simply make plays.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
The Bulls get a much needed, reliable small forward in Hollis-Jefferson. Mike Dunleavy simply won’t cut it as a starting NBA forward on any team and they get more physical with this pick. The Bulls struggled to contain LeBron James in the playoffs and when Butler defended him the other Cavs players got hot. Chicago has the offense (if they can retain Jimmy Butler) and adding defense at the SF position would benefit them tremendously. Rondae’s energy can provide a spark off of the bench and his ability to lock down players with his defense is quite enticing.
Rashad Vaughn, G, UNLV
The Trail Blazers are in trouble as they may lose All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and SG Wesley Matthews via free agency. Aldridge will want a max deal (a well-deserved one I may add) and Matthews wants around $15 million a year. I bet they gamble and try to re-sign Aldridge and let Matthews walk as they have C.J. McCollum who played well last year as a replacement for Matthews. Rashad Vaughn has a chance to play backup PG and SG here with time to develop learning from Damian Lillard. Good place for Vaughn to go as he can demonstrate his scoring abilities coming off of the bench.
Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia
The Cavaliers get their backup SF in Anderson with the No. 24 pick in the draft. They clearly lacked defense in the NBA Finals as they played James Jones as LeBron’s primary backup. Anderson can come right into this system in Cleveland and provide hustle, defense, and 3-point shooting. A great fit for him to not only see minutes early, but to also learn from the best in the world.
Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
Memphis could use a reliable backup to PF Zach Randolph and Harrell is it. The big man is coming out of a great season at Louisville and displayed great hustle and offensive skills. He has a knack for defense as well and his motor should never be questioned. Without a doubt one of the hardest working players in this draft and Montrezl can certainly make a name for himself in this league. He should learn a lot from Z-Bo and Gasol and develop into a fine player in Memphis.
- San Antonio
Delon Wright, G, Utah
The Spurs have been reportedly muggy on backup PG Patty Mills future with the team and Wright is a wonderful replacement. His older brother, Dorell, also played in the league the last ten years bouncing around the NBA. Delon can learn from his brother’s path and provide the Spurs with a few things.
- L.A. Lakers (From Houston)
Terry Rozier, G, Louisville
Rozier has great potential in this league as he provides explosiveness and can simply score the basketball. Playing alongside Kobe Bryant would enable Rozier to show off his passing ability and develop him more as an overall playmaker. He can come off of the bench and play the point or the 2 spot. His defense is good at the perimeter and he can cut off open lanes for his opponents and force bad shots or turnovers. Rozier has the chance to learn from Bryant and that can only help him as a scoring type player.
- Boston (From L.A. Clippers)
Christian Wood, PF, UNLV
Adding Wood with Oubre would give them more outside shooting and also a great shot blocker. The C’s have Olynyk and Zeller down low, but neither are good shot blockers. Wood could stretch the floor on offense and alter shots on defense. Playing behind Jared Sullinger, who is more of an offensive threat, will provide the Celtics with an array of PF’s including Brandon Bass that can play defense and offense while being able to confidently rest one another. Great position to have depth at and Wood’s talents are certainly needed here in Boston.
- Brooklyn (From Atlanta)
Martin possesses a game similar to Nets’ free agent Thaddeus Young, whom they may lose in free agency. Martin is a playmaker who can walk into any team and provide useful minutes. His athleticism is unbelievable and assists him with great rebounding instincts and also helps him get to the basket. The Nets could use some versatility and physicality and Martin can bring it to them on day 1.
- Golden State
Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse
McCullough ends up with the defending NBA Champions with the last pick in the first round. His size, length, and athleticism provides a high ceiling for his game, but he also missed the end of last season with an ACL injury. He is a terrific athlete who can move like a wing player while possessing great potential defensively. He can block shots and also shoot a decent jumper which is why he is so strong on the P/R or P/P situations. He can score on the block and even has good vision for a big man to pass to the open man on the perimeter. He is a project but Golden State can afford to develop him and hopefully replace David Lee long term.
This years NBA Draft will indeed be exhilerating for every NBA team in the association. This years draft has the potential to have major trades left and right, and I expect some big names to be moved. A big free agency follows in July, and Thursday is the start of the 2016 NBA season. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for free agency speculation in July!
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Matt Stevenson